Why I tore up my“list”

Arthi Meena
4 min readMar 31, 2021


This past October, my mom visited me in Denver for the first time since I moved here. I had our whole weekend ready. I rented an Airbnb in the mountains … Had hikes planned out … Parks to wander around … Dinner reservations made … And of course, there was a massive snowstorm that blew through that weekend and the only thing left for us to do was to hang out indoors and talk for three days straight.

Like most mothers, my mom LOVES being way too involved in my dating life … Or at that particular moment, my lack thereof. I had been seeing someone casually but wasn’t really sure what I wanted, and overall, I was just unenthusiastic about continuing in my search. So, as one does when they’ve lost hope, I let my mom take the reins on my love life figuring maybe she’d have better luck.

I let her scroll through all of Colorado’s eligible bachelors … I taught her how to swipe (with a constant reminder of what each direction meant) … I watched her get so excited when she (or … I guess I) matched with someone … I gave her full visibility into modern romance and she loved every second of it. During that weekend, we also spent a whole morning writing out my list of what I was looking for in a partner (her idea, not mine). Getting crystal clear was apparently an important part of this process and would prevent me from “wasting my time” more than I already had. We spent five hours at the most quaint coffee shop, consuming copious amounts of hot beverages and flaky pastries, all while thoroughly discussing every one of my relationship requirements. By the end of our morning, surrounded by crumbs and empty mugs, we had created the most perfect list. My ideal partner from the inside out, scribbled down in bad handwriting on a piece of receipt paper. How romantic.

I will say that this list helped me end things with my current fling. He was a good dude … Kind, stable, caring, emotionally available (which, as many of my single girlfriends know, is a rare find)… But he was just not my good dude. And the list helped me confirm this and cut ties (instead of dragging things along which is my usual move).

After my mom headed back to Chicago, I desperately needed a break from thinking or talking about dating. I put the list away, deleted the apps, and refocused my attention back on me. Oddly enough, my “list” walked right into my life a few weeks later when I wasn’t even looking. He checked every box … Even some of the weird ones. The more I got know him, the more I adored him. I fell hard and fast and it felt too good to be true. Spoiler: It was definitely too good to be true. It ended. I cried. And then I went back to my list and added one more line: someone that chooses me, for being me, everyday.

About a month into my dating hiatus, I found myself sitting on my kitchen floor tearing up the list into tiny pieces, all while a sage bundle burned in the background, cleansing my heart and soul and body and apartment. It felt good … Almost freeing.

So why did I tear up my list?

It certainly wasn’t because I had given up hope or my belief in love. And it certainly wasn’t because I was swearing off men or relationships. I love, love. I always will. I’ve gotten to know great guys and even if things didn’t work out in the longterm, they each helped me learn a little more about myself and what I need.

So again, why did I tear up my list?

It’s simple: I tore up my list because I want to be surprised. I want to remain open to possibilities. To allow life to throw me curveballs in the best way possible. To leave room for magic and spontaneity.

When you have a list, you say no without even realizing it. When you have a list, you naturally live in tunnel vision. When you have a list, and if you get everything you want on it, you miss out on getting everything you might need.

So with that, I hope you tear up your list(s) too. Have your goals. Go after them with all your heart. Live with intention. But leave room for surprises. The best is yet to come.